One of the breathalyzer instruments popularly used by Florida law enforcement has been found to give questionable results in some cases. The Intoxilyzer 8000 has been found in multiple cases to have malfunctioning flow sensors, generating unreliable breath test results.
The Intoxilyzer 8000 relies on a “pressure transducer” flow sensor, which measures flow and breath volume and ensures that an appropriate sample of the test taker’s breath is obtained for an accurate measurement. These sensors must be meticulously calibrated and regularly inspected to ensure accuracy. An accurate result requires a deep lung breath sample of at least 1.1 liters of breath. In a functioning machine, the flow sensor would be responsible for ensuring that this minimum requirement was met. In instances where less than the minimum was blown, the machine would indicate “Volume Not Met.” However, in a machine with a malfunctioning flow sensor, this message may not appear and the sample size cannot be validated.
According to former Department Inspector for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) Alcohol Testing Program Matthew E. Malhiot, the FDLE did not conduct routine checks or calibrations of the flow sensors of these machines until August 2010. Despite having purchased the equipment to test flow sensors in 2009, the Department failed to implement mandatory testing protocols until nearly a year later.
However, the FDLE was aware of the issue much earlier. In October 2009, the FDLE removed use of at least one of these instruments in Hamilton County due to problems with the flow sensors. Other counties have tested their Intoxilyzer 8000’s and found their sensors so faulty, they needed to be replaced entirely. Still others remain untested and in use while the FDLE procedures work towards state-wide implementation.
Florida law enforcement and prosecutors may have been convicting Florida residents of DUI for years based on faulty information. The reliability of chemical testing technology is taken for granted by courts, and yet there are consistent reports like these of systemic malfunctions that can land innocent citizens with DUI convictions.